GUATEMALA CITY – Five people are in custody for the alleged diversion of more than $3 million in public funds, but reputed ringleader Gloria Torres, the erstwhile sister-in-law of President Alvaro Colom, remains at large, a Guatemalan prosecutor said Monday.
Four suspects, including two former city councilors, were arrested Sunday, Rolando Rodenas said.
Eugenia Castañeda Torres, one of Gloria Torres’ daughters, was detained last Wednesday at her residence in Guatemala City, while her mother and sister remain fugitives.
Prosecutors have charged a total of 19 people in connection with the purported scheme to cheat municipal governments.
Between 2005 and 2010, according to the prosecutors, Gloria Torres and her associates bilked a total of $3.36 million out of four municipalities by persuading them to take out loans for public works projects that were never built.
Gloria Torres helped found the governing center-left UNE party in 2000 along with her sister Sandra, who early this year divorced Colom in a bid to become the party’s presidential candidate in the September elections.
Guatemala’s constitution bars relatives of a sitting president from seeking the highest office.
While the courts ultimately barred Sandra Torres from competing in the 2011 contest, the final decision came too late for the UNE to choose another candidate.
Regarded as an expert in municipal administration, Gloria Torres was seen as a natural choice when Colom named her as his liaison with Guatemala’s mayors shortly after he took office in January 2008.
After resigning the liaison post in April, Gloria Torres filed a legal challenge to Sandra Torres’ presidential candidacy and complained of illegalities at the UNE general assembly where her sister was selected as the party’s standard-bearer.
Gloria Torres claims that Colom and Sandra Torres were behind the charges against her, an allegation flatly denied by presidential press secretary Ronaldo Robles. EFE